Former Tory chair calls on Dominic Raab to step aside during inquiry
A former cabinet minister and Conservative party chair has become the most senior Tory MP yet to call for Dominic Raab to step aside from his ministerial roles while he is investigated over multiple allegations of bullying and intimidating behaviour.
Jake Berry, who was party chair and minister without portfolio in Liz Truss’s cabinet, said it would be “very bizarre” if someone in a similar position to Raab in any other workplace remained in their role amid such claims.
Downing Street declined on Friday to say whether Simon Case, the cabinet secretary, had been informed of complaints about Raab before Rishi Sunak made him justice secretary and deputy prime minister, placing yet more scrutiny on what the prime minister knew at the time.
Sunak’s spokesperson reiterated the heavily caveated formula that the prime minister was “not aware at the time of appointment of any formal complaints” about Raab, declining to say anything else given an ongoing investigation into the allegations.
Berry told BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster that it would be “a big help” to Sunak if he was able to straightforwardly suspend a minister who was being investigated, as happens in the private sector.
Asked if he believed Sunak should suspend Raab now, Berry said: “When you have 24 allegations outstanding against you – I read in the newspaper there are 24 – it would be very bizarre if you had someone in any other workplace who wasn’t suspended pending that investigation. MPs and ministers are not some form of special human being – I think they should just be treated like anyone else is in their workplace.”
Berry’s comments place yet more pressure on Sunak to act, given the inquiry he ordered by Adam Tolley KC is seen as unlikely to be concluded for another couple of weeks at the earliest.
Sunak has faced criticism for his failure to act earlier in dismissing Nadhim Zahawi, the most recent Conservative party chair, after it emerged he received a tax penalty from HMRC when he was chancellor, and also faced scrutiny over whether or not he knew about Zahawi’s situation before appointing him.
On Friday, Downing Street refused to comment on a report in the Times that Case, the most senior civil servant in government, had been personally told of a written complaint about Raab during his earlier stint in the justice ministry months before Sunak gave him the post again.
Sunak’s spokesperson confirmed that in general terms, a written statement made, for example, to a line manager, an HR representative or a permanent secretary would be counted as a formal complaint. However, he refused to say if Case had been informed about the concerns over Raab, and if so whether he had passed this information to Sunak before the prime minister named his government in October, citing Tolley’s ongoing work.
“We’re not going to get into the process of appointments or the advice that the PM receives, or does not receive,” the spokesperson said, adding that Sunak had full confidence in Case.
At least 24 officials are involved in the complaints about Raab’s behaviour. He vehemently denies any wrongdoing.
In another allegation, the anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller has claimed Raab was abusive to her and a BBC staffer after they appeared together on Radio 4’s Today programme in 2016. Writing in the Independent, Miller said that when they were together in a lift after the broadcast, Raab “stared at me and said: ‘I can’t make up my mind if you’re naive, got too much money or just stupid.’”
As they left the building, Miller said, Raab reacted furiously to a young staff member who said there was no car arranged for him, shouting: “Go get me a fucking car.”
A source close to Raab told the paper the claims by Miller were “baseless and malicious”.